Study Hard, Study Hungry

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by Layth Mattar | University of St. Andrews, Spring 2020

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Hunger is the best pickle.” Now, I do not want to say that I am as experienced in this realm than Benjamin Franklin, but I think a new phrase should join the party, “Travel is the best restaurant.”

Mother’s café in Edinburgh, food that more than makes up for the trip across the pond.

Travel is the best restaurant because it provides you with a novel experience, an atmosphere that is impossible to replicate somewhere else, and a story to share and relate with others. I mean if I studied abroad in Scotland and only ate at multinational chain restaurants, I would have missed out on so many irreplaceable experiences. And we all know one food that would be nigh impossible to find outside of Scotland, haggis.

Through TV shows like the Simpsons, the media has created a mythical and generally unpleasant legend around haggis.  They represent it to be a combination of all the parts of a sheep we do not eat wrapped into one and cooked inside the sheep’s stomach. So, let me remove any confusion; they are exactly right. But that should not make us turn away from haggis in disgust! If anything, it should remind you of the ballpark hot dogs available all around the United States. The haggis I had at Mackar’s Gourmet Hash Bar in Edinburgh was delicious. The flavor of haggis comes from the spices used in the cooking process, not the meat itself. This creates a wonderful and savory (albeit somewhat grainy) dish that makes you wonder what other lies your TV has taught you about other foods and places over the years, like, is Indian food in the UK really that good?

It truly saddens me to say that this is another lie American media has instilled in us over the years. Indian food in the UK is unbelievable. To clarify, I have never been to India, but after my visit to Mother India’s Café in Edinburgh it is at the top of my bucket list now. The café presented foods with flavor profiles and mixtures that I did not even know existed. I mean I had chicken tikka basil curry, chili king prawns, and Kurkure aloo chaat (potato cakes) served with delicious sauces and pomegranates. I mean pomegranates with potato cakes! Come on! If you are reading this and shoot me a “let’s go right now” text I will book a flight faster than a study abroad student who wants to let everyone in every conversation know that they studied abroad last semester.

Jannetta’s Gelateria combines a delicious dessert with native Scottish flavors

Last but not least, deserts, and nothing beats a nice scoop of gelato or maybe some coffee. Jannetta’s Gelateria in St. Andrews provided me with a  delicious source of late-night deserts and conversations.  From its peaceful and happy interior to its plethora of flavors ranging from Irn Bru to Scottish tablet. It is a great place to hang out with friends and have a sweet treat. And if ice cream is not your thing, the UK is filled with so many cafés and bakeries it would be more difficult to avoid them than to find one.

Studying abroad is a unique and important experience. It provides someone the chance to fully immerse themselves into another culture. Food is a staple of culture and is something that must be embraced to maximize a study abroad experience. Food was a major reason why I cherished my experience in Scotland so much, I can not even begin to imagine it without those memories.